Essential Food Safety Tips for Handling Poultry at Home

November 11, 2023

Chicken is a beloved and convenient meal, capturing the hearts and taste buds of over 8 out of 10 cooks in Australia. However, the popularity of poultry, which includes not only chicken but also turkey, duck, quail, squab, geese, pheasants, and guinea fowl, comes with the responsibility of handling and cooking it safely. Poultry is prone to contamination by food poisoning bacteria, making it imperative to follow stringent food safety measures.

Handling Poultry Correctly:

To minimize the risk of cross-contamination and ensure a safe cooking environment, here are essential tips for handling poultry:

  1. Avoid Washing Raw Poultry: Contrary to common practice, washing raw poultry is not recommended, as it can spread bacteria throughout your kitchen. Instead, pat the meat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
  2. Practice Proper Hand Hygiene: Wash and dry your hands thoroughly after handling raw poultry to prevent the spread of bacteria. Additionally, clean all surfaces that come into contact with the poultry.
  3. Defrost Safely: If you need to defrost poultry, do so in the refrigerator or microwave, using a container to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods. Ensure the poultry is fully defrosted before cooking.
  4. Prevent Cross-Contamination: Be vigilant about preventing raw poultry juices from contaminating other foods, especially those that won’t undergo further cooking, such as desserts or salads. Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked poultry.
  5. Maintain Clean Utensils: Always use clean plates and utensils, washing and drying them thoroughly between use for raw and cooked poultry. Never place cooked food back on surfaces that previously held raw poultry.
  6. Cooking Temperatures: Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 75°C, as measured with a meat thermometer in the thickest part. Ensure that frozen poultry is fully defrosted at the center before cooking.

Research Findings:

A national survey conducted by the Food Safety Information Council revealed some alarming practices among home cooks in Australia:

  • 60% washed whole poultry before cooking, spreading bacteria in their kitchens.
  • 16% wrongly relied on tasting chicken to determine doneness instead of using a meat thermometer.

Foodborne illnesses from Campylobacter and Salmonella have nearly doubled in the last two decades, with approximately 220,000 annual cases of Campylobacter infection, 75% of which are foodborne. Of these, 50,000 cases can be attributed directly or indirectly to chicken meat.

Chicken and Food Poisoning

Salmonella poses a significant threat, and chicken is a major contributor to the transmission of this bacteria. Contamination can occur through various means, including inadequate cooking and the potential spread of chicken juices onto kitchen surfaces, refrigerators, and other raw food items, such as salads.

Essential Steps to Prevent Food Poisoning from Chicken

  • Place chicken in a disposable bag before placing it in your shopping cart or refrigerator to prevent raw juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw chicken.
  • Raw chicken is ready to cook and does not need to be washed. Washing can spread germs. Use a food thermometer to ensure it’s cooked to 165°F (73.9°C).
  • If you choose to wash chicken, reduce splashing by running water gently. Immediately clean the sink and surrounding areas with hot soapy water and sanitize. Wash hands for 20 seconds.
  • Use a separate cutting board for raw chicken to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Never place cooked food or fresh produce on surfaces that touched raw chicken. Wash utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after handling chicken.
  • Ensure chicken reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (73.9°C) using a food thermometer.
  • Treat frozen raw chicken in microwaveable meals like fresh raw chicken. Follow cooking directions precisely to prevent food poisoning.
  • If served chicken that seems undercooked, send it back for further cooking.
  • Refrigerate or freeze leftover chicken within 2 hours (1 hour if exposed to temperatures above 90°F or 32.2°C)


As the popularity of poultry continues to rise, so does the importance of safe handling practices. By adhering to proper hygiene, defrosting methods, and cooking temperatures, you can enjoy the health benefits of poultry without compromising safety. Let’s make informed choices in the kitchen to keep our meals not only delicious but also free from foodborne risks.


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